Is Superstition a Sin?

By Paul Dion, STL

Superstition a sin? Why, that's silly! Everyone knows that it doesn't work, it's just a silly practice that doesn't mean anything.

Think back a little bit and you'll remember hearing ( or thinking )words to that effect more than once in your life. Some of you may remember an older member of your exended family reminding everyone of a quasi-religious practice that had to be followed in order to avoid something bad from happening in the near future. Maybe you remember being reminded to observe a certain "religious" practice so that you can count on something good happening to you. How many of you always forward e-mails that promise you something if you send "this to 12 of your friends in the next 6 minutes you will be the happy recipient of good economic news in the next week"?

How many of you drop a fork from the table and exclaim, "Yikes, we're going to get company?" Then someone will say, "No, a fork doesn't mean company, it means good luck."

My mother had a habit of knocking on wood whenever she or someone else mentioned a wish that was generally considered to be an item of good luck.

Finally, in my family it was considered to be out of the question to have the body of a newly deceased relative exposed for waking on a Sunday. I witnessed some rather uncomfortable gyrations around social schedules to avoid that situation.

Which brings us to the question: Is including these practices and others of like nature in the behavior of our lives a sin? If not, why not? If yes, why "yes"? If "yes", what commandment are we breaking?

Leave your comments and thoughts below.

Or Click Here to view the theological answer to this Burning Question.


  1. Michael10:01 AM

    Interesting and thought provoking. Some Catholics occassionaly do engage in superstition, some as a non-corrected cultural belief and others as part of the pop culture. Horoscope and "magic" ashes on Ash Wednesday come to mind. They are bad and as you say sinful if the superstition replaces God as the source of all-knowing power and salvation. My question is, are they sinful enough to require Confession?

  2. Michael:
    Thank you for the comment. The answer to your question is yes, superstitious behavior can rise to the level of sin serious enough to present to the penitential tribunal. We must remember, of course, that the sinner in this case may not even know the depth of the immorality being practiced. It is possible that there are not too many consciences out there attuned to the severity of the insult that superstition inflicts on God and His Communion of Saints.

    Paul Dion, STL Theology Editor

  3. We have a lot of superstitions in the Philippines which are probably common in many places. If you look at them well, they are irrationally made up stories to prevent one from having bad luck, accident or some practical things or actions that are not supposed to be done because they are not practical. So people from of old invented those irrational stories so that those practical things could not be forgotten and should not be done in order to avoid misfortunes. I would like to site one example. The cutting of finger nails in the night time is a kind of a "curse" for the family. It is said that if you cut your finger nails at night you are asking that one of the family members will die. But actually,this kind of superstition is just for practical purpose and reason. It is just telling us don't cut your finger nails at night time because you might cut your finger accidentally while cutting your finger nails in the dark because you could not see it well in the dark. Imagine during those times, there was no electricity. I think during those times they were infusing fear into people so that they can see the weight of the moral and practical issues in question. But going back to the question: Is superstition sin? It is a sin because it makes you to trust in a false belief which is fatalistic and could arrest ones life into fear. And in in this case it is equivalent to idolatry because it is putting ones fate into a false and irrational belief.